Meniscus Tear Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Knee pain
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A meniscus tear is one of the most frequently occurring cartilage injuries of the knee. The meniscus is a cartilage in your knee that helps the knee function smoothly, provide cushioning and shock absorption, improve your weight distribution, and stabilizes the joint.


Symptoms of a meniscus tear include pain in the knee, swelling, a popping sensation during the injury, knee stiffness (especially after sitting), a tendency for your knee to get "stuck" or lock up, and difficulty bending and straightening that leg.


Meniscus tears can happen when a person changes direction suddenly while running. Although they're more common in athletes who play contact sports, meniscus tears can happen to runners. In runners, the meniscus is often injured by a twisting motion or a blow to the side of the knee. Older athletes are more at risk since the meniscus weakens with age. Runners more commonly injure the medial meniscus (central meniscus attached to the tibia or shinbone) rather than the lateral meniscus (on the side of the knee).


Make sure you're wearing the correct running shoes for your foot and running style, since wearing the wrong type of shoes may may you more prone to falling or twisting your knee. Do exercises to strengthen the muscles that support and stabilize the knee, so you can make your knees more injury-resistant.


Treatment for meniscal tears depends on the size and location of the tear.

If your knee is not locking up, is stable, and the symptoms go away, you may not need surgery. Sometimes small tears heal on their own with the proper treatment.

Your doctor will definitely prescribe rest (no impact activities) and icing your knee to reduce pain and swelling. Ice your knee for 15-20 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days or until the pain and swelling is gone.

You can also follow the other steps in R.I.C.E. treatment by compressing your knee with an elastic bandage or a neoprene type sleeve on your knee to control swelling and elevating it with a pillow under your heel.

Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and give you stretching and strengthening exercises to do.

If a tear is large, unstable, or causing locking symptoms, you may need surgery to either repair or remove unstable edges. The procedure is usually pretty simple, and you can often go home the same day. You may need some physical therapy and to wear a brace afterward for protection if a surgery is done.

Sources:, "Knee Injury and Meniscus Tear, accessed 9/15, "Meniscus Tear - Overview", accessed 9/15

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